Noemi Addison is high-energy. She may be only 10 years old, but she has strong opinions.
“I like to sing and dance, and singing and dancing is fun. I do it a lot, even in the shower!” she says, executing a pirouette during a video chat from her home.
“This child is very artistic. She’s very dramatic,” says her mom, Jacqueline Ortiz. “We’ve always struggled to find the best environments for her where she could flourish, but Performing Arts Conservatory is just the right fit.”
We launched our Performing Arts Conservatory four summers ago to offer professional instruction in dance, drama and music to Noemi and other dramatic children from all backgrounds. It just finished its fourth summer season, and its first entirely online one.
For a program that usually involves intense in-person teaching—adjusting the tilt of an elbow, demonstrating a vocal technique, positioning actors on a stage—there were huge challenges in going entirely remote.
“We weren’t sure it would work,” Community Arts Manager Amanda Hopper confesses. “These young people have already gone through months of school online. We worried they would be burned out on remote learning. But we ended up adding extra time in the afternoon, because the students wanted it!”
Hopper says that’s a tribute to both the students and the instructors. “Everybody gave a little extra, and they made it work.”
Each PAC season ends with a performance that combines all the students’ skills. This year it was SLEEPING CITY, an original rewrite of Sleeping Beauty. The dances were choreographed to fit the space each child had available. The performance unspools in living rooms draped with sheets, in cramped courtyards and entryways, and even on a rooftop. Watching it feels like a celebration of New York itself, and the passions that keep us going in spite of closet-sized apartments at mansion-sized rents.
Arts classes are often viewed as an extra; a nice thing for children to have, but less important than, say, math and English. But studying a discipline like dance teaches far more than just how to do a perfect arabesque. It also teaches things like focus and self-control.
“There was one little incident where Noemi had a bit of a tiff with another child, and even seeing the way she handled that—the program was important enough to her to deal with it the right way,” Jackie explains.
She may be learning grown-up lessons, but to Noemi, PAC is anything but stuffy or boring.
“It’s fun and i like it forever and ever,” she says. “It’s more fun than Tik Tok, and Tik Tok is really popular!”